When I picture 1940 everyone poses
for me, as though I had the one
camera in the world. I cannot distract them
from their studied, ghoulish jolliness.
My grandmother is posing, yelling “smile”
and my grandfather is horsing around
with a tire, making his biceps big. I
can’t know the past, because the past
keeps arranging itself before my lens. People
call out Here, and Over Here, striking
their prewar, rural easygoing stances.
That night, when I try again, everyone
is indoors, in parlors, reading quietly.
A woman rocking in and out of lamplight
studies me. The neighbor’s
middle child died this afternoon.